NDP Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley at the Premier’s Breakfast in 2016 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Opposition NDP members plan to make an emergency motion on Tuesday at a meeting of the Legislature’s Public Accounts Committee calling for full-disclosure of Premier Jason Kenney’s $7.5-billion Keystone XL Pipeline deal last March. 

Technically, the motion will urge the United Conservative Party Cabinet to waive its privilege and release the full risk analysis, along with all financial documents related to the deal.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at his news conference last Wednesday during which he defended his “investment” in the Keystone XL Pipeline (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Calling the premier’s decision in March 2020 a “risky bet,” Opposition Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley said that “now that the project has been stopped, Albertans deserve to know exactly how much of their money is at stake, and how much analysis – if any – was conducted by the UCP before spending billions on this project.” 

The Keystone XL deal died on Wednesday, hours after Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as president of the United States. Among Mr. Biden’s first acts in office was the revocation of the permit issued by former president Donald Trump in 2016 allowing construction of the controversial pipeline to proceed. 

If a risk analysis had been done before Mr. Kenney’s decision on March 31, 2020, to provide an immediate $1.5-billion cash subsidy to Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. and an additional $6 billion in loan guarantees, it seems likely it would have mentioned the fact Mr. Biden, then a leading candidate to represent the Democrats in the November 2020 election, had promised to pull the plug on KXL if he was elected. 

Remember, on March 3, Mr. Biden won 10 states in the Super Tuesday primary. On March 10, he won another five states. So even though it was early June before he was considered the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, it was obvious he had a strong chance of winning. Mr. Biden formally accepted the party’s nomination on Aug. 21. 

Presumably any Alberta Government risk analysis would also have noted that that any new president could revoke the KXL construction permit without a vote of the U.S. Congress because when Mr. Trump approved construction he did so by executive order and took no further action. 

Up to now, the UCP has refused to reveal any of the details of the deal. 

During his news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Premier Kenney defended his gamble last March as a wise and prudent “investment,” a term that echoed the government video press release last year describing the plan, and not as a high-risk gamble. 

Public Accounts Committee member Marlin Schmidt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Claiming he had no regrets about what he did, Mr. Kenney said in response to a reporter’s question that “any responsible Alberta government would have made that decision.” (This answer begins at 14:35 on the Youtube video of the premier’s news conference.)

“Had we not done so,” said the man who while campaigning in 2017 promised to introduce legislation preventing governments going into the market to pick winners and losers, “the project would have died last year because of the perceived political risk associated with it.”

In the end, of course, it turned out the political risk was real, as surely any government risk analysis would have shown even in March 2020. 

The goal, Premier Kenney continued, revealing his core strategy, was to “create facts on the ground.” Facts, in the event, that did not divert President Biden from keeping his promise to American voters. 

At a meeting of the Public Accounts on Nov. 17 last year, NDP committee member Marlin Schmidt called on the government to release the details of the deal. Cabinet responded that a formal request to release documents was required before that could happen. 

“We are making that formal request,” Ms. Ganley said, “so the deal can be released and Albertans can finally get some answers.” 

It seems unlikely details will be forthcoming from this secretive government. After all, The UCP holds a majority on the committee with eight members compared to four for the NDP, so the request is not likely to be forwarded to cabinet. 

Still, you never know, perhaps Mr. Kenney, having manfully defended his “investment,” will want to back up that interpretation with the facts he had on hand. 

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  1. Oh, yes good luck with that! Kenney and the UCP do not seem very forthcoming even at the best of times and well these are sure not the best of times for them. Expect to be stonewalled, misdirection and a great deal of obfuscation – in essence to be told the more common meaning of FOIP (ie. futz off it’s private, or privileged or something similar). However, I suppose we can always hope some bureaucrat is appalled at Kenney’s careless approach to handling public money here as most of the rest of us and they might do a public service and enlighten us, or at least a diligent journalist.

    It must be a tad embarrassing for Kenney to be left holding the bag, the one TC’s lenders and investors have passed on to him, as they probably had a good idea this was not going to end well. While we are on the topic, as an Albertan who has a share of this bag, I would also really like to know how much it actually is. The figure most commonly used is $1.5 billion for the equity investment, but that of course doesn’t include billions more in loan guarantees, some of which may apply. I don’t think Kenney has provided any definite numbers yet, so I am guessing it is not on the lower side, otherwise he would have probably disputed it.

    As one of the many Canadians who followed US politics a bit more than probably was healthy over the last few years (a fairly common effect of the Trump show), I also had a very sinking feeling when I heard the UCP announce the TC investment and loan guarantees. I suspected this wouldn’t end well and it was a huge risk. First, Trump never had majority support and his approval ratings even before COVID were really not that good. He was definitely not going towards a second term in a great position of strength. The Presidential Permit is a very powerful thing, but also unfortunately very fickle and totally susceptible to how the political winds blow. Biden had never expressed support for Keystone XL, was a key member in the government that previously killed it and I don’t think many, if any, of the other Democratic candidates supported it either . Also unlike tariffs, which can be challenged in various ways, sometimes even successfully, restrictions on infrastructure across ones own sovereign territory, is not very easy at all to challenge. It is mostly considered to be a national prerogative.

    Like many things Kenney said, I thought his 2017 promise about not picking winners and loser was a bit overwrought and self serving. In some ways it reminds me of his grassroots guarantee – a clever ploy for the moment, to be conveniently forgotten as soon as possible with no thought to the future. Come to think of it, much of what Kenney does would probably fall under the description of clever ploys for the moment with no thought for the future, so I suppose that helps explain why he (and we) are in this mess now.

    1. Well said, Dave. If Kenney is capable of embarrassment (it depends on whether he realizes he can be wrong), this ought to do it.

      TC Energy (if I recall correctly) had decided to halt construction pending the US election outcome. Then Kenney offered them a deal to restart. I can imagine a board meeting where the Chairman says (shrugging), “Well, if he wants to pay for it with tax dollars, it’s no skin off our nose. Let’s accept this offer and see what happens.” What happened, of course, was that Biden kept his word and revoked a bad decision by a petulant, self-important man-baby. Alberta’s resident petulant, self-important man-baby then lost it.

      I’d like to see what conditions attach to the loan guarantees. Are we on the hook for $6 billion more, no matter what? Or just what TC Energy might have borrowed (if the could find lenders) up to the decision to pull the plug?

      Kenney has outsmarted himself again. But, as usual, Albertans are stuck with cleaning up and paying the bills.

  2. With kenney’s absurd posturing on just about everything and TeeRump off playing golf and snarfing buckets of KFC with sides of Bacon Big Macs, our little political seniors coffee clatch yesterday had quite a hoot at jason’s expense. He’s so easy to dislike and ape, a caricature. If you’re a Canadian far right wing wart on the people’s backsides, your time is over for now. Gotta diss the USA to get anywhere now, and even Repugs bristle when nonentity foreigners nominally on their ideological wavelength do that.

    So all these provincial Con/UCP pol armpit-scratchers posture and rage against citizens over Covid for not following byzantine rules, and the Feds for everything else, snark, whine grumble, whinge, bleat. And now have added the US to their blame list. Yeah sure, who cares? Hows about getting on doing YOUR jobs, eh? A bad workman blames his tools, a bad pol blames everyone else by misdirection when it all turns to sh!te, because Moi Royaume couldn’t possibly have got it wrong. “I demand Canada put in trade sanctions on the USA” the little man of the prairie splutters, his dream of right wing domination the world over dashed on the rocks of reality, his game up. Jeez, the US believes in climate change? Unbelievable! Sic the War Room on them!

    Still, we all found Doug Ford’s rage the most comical. A champeen off-the-cuff rager and invective thrower. We should give him a kayak and a paddle and point him towards Brussels where our Pfizer vaccine will one day be made, and by golly he’d go and sort out everyone over there right now, damn socialists! Meanwhile, after accusing Biden of having a kumbaya sing-song around the campfire, Dougie is all set to drive to Kalamazoo to pick up some spare vaccine from Pfizer USA all by hisself. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. They should film his arrival at US Immigration for Border Security TV. That would get supreme ratings! He’d tell off those US agents who never heard of him before, all right! Likely get a full body search for his troubles before being resaddled on his donkey and pointed back towards Canada, which is what Americans call provinces that abut their shores, oblivious of the fact that such sub-national entities even exist. Doug just met a giant City Hall even he can’t batter into submission and reorganize.

  3. expecting no less than obfuscation and avoidance from StumPy McClueless and his posse of vacuous sock puppets

    am also saddened and vexed that my schadenfreude re the never ending bad choices and cack handed governing as whupped on us poor Albertans by Kenny/UCP is so gall darn expensive !!

    good, pointed blog post as per usual but it must at times feel like shooting fish in a barrel

  4. If there was nothing to hide, why hide it?

    We’d probably learn that loans were already booked for this deal, so Albertans will be on the hook for far more than $1.5B. But who’s counting? It’s just money, and it was so worth it for those temporary jobs, especially the ones south of the border. We wouldn’t want to spend that money on educational assistants, now would we (see March 2020 news)? Besides, what’s wrong with property speculators in Oyen cashing in on the boom? It’s the Alberta way.

    Whatever you do, please do not give this opinion piece from the Guardian a few minutes of your time.


    Meanwhile, let’s feel sorry for those pipeline executives who earn millions every year in salaries alone, and now need compensation from everyone except Jason Kenney for the failure of this project. Maybe feel about as sorry as you would for the Moo Cow creamer in the old IKEA commercial. This cow has been milked and put out to pasture.

    Alberta, boldly going where no market would ever go. Speaking of markets, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how much stock was sold by TC insiders in the past 10 months?

  5. Expect the UCP members of the Public Accounts Committee to flat-out refuse to release the risk analysis (assuming there is one). The excuse will be that it contains too much confidential information on TC Energy’s financial situation. Never mind that such information is available to the public in annual reports and audited financial statements.

    Has anyone checked the SEDAR web site for official filings by TC Energy? I confess I haven’t tried. It looks like there are more restrictions on public access than years back, though it might just be clicking “Agree” in the terms and conditions page.

  6. So I read every post here along with the commentariat’s contibutions I just have to say, I love you all! The fact there’s no easy fix? Far less important! Knowing there are at least some imaginary engineers to begin rebuilding bridges? Pricesless! As they say in the age of transactional self destruction! Where’s the leaders when we need them! Oh. Out gaming the system for personal gain? What a sad bereft, pathetic and utterly useless government they produce for us to behold! https://youtu.be/ma0OIdTtXno

  7. There is little risk in graft.
    When public money disappears privately it is called graft
    I am not seeing this as a “mistake”
    Perfect con with all the right smoke and mirrors .

    You can tell me i am wrong when you get the money back.

    1. Right on Lungta. What looks like failure to the general public is in fact success.

      The whole Keystone XL pipeline deal was a pretext to steal from taxpayers, and distribute it to private interests. Kenney succeeded. As for the pipeline, who cares? It fulfilled its function which was always an excuse to draw 1.5 billion from the AB treasury.

      Now Kenney is playing the blame game to try and hide the fact the scheme was always about robbing Alberta taxpayers. This was the greatest train robbery ever perpetrated on Albertans. Stupid Albertans have to be the biggest rubes in Canada.

  8. Thanks ABS for pointing that out. To add to this obvious bit of stupidity they have passed Bill 15 cutting another 2% off Notley’s taxes and rewarded the oil industry for creating the orphan well mess, and have literally told our farmers and ranchers that they have no intention of helping them clean it up.
    I’m betting they will use the excuse sorry we don’t have any money better get Ottawa to help you. It’s my understanding that the 4% they have cut in taxes will cost Albertans another $9 billion in lost revenues.

    1. ALAN K SPILLER: You have got it correct. What can we expect from these phony Conservatives, who only look after their rich friends? More misery and suffering for Albertans.

  9. Read it and weep:
    Letter to editor from Joe Anglin, Former Independent MLA, 26 May 2020

    Former MLA says Albertans can’t afford to fund Keystone XL pipeline
    In March, Premier Kenney announced Alberta’s taxpayers will invest nearly $1.1 billion U.S. into the Keystone XL pipeline. In addition to this investment, Alberta taxpayers would also guarantee the pipeline’s owner, TC Energy, another $6.9 billion U.S. in the form of loan guarantees to build the pipeline. The total taxpayer investment in Keystone XL amounts to more than $10 billion Canadian. Can Albertans actually afford this? The answer is sadly – not likely! Kenney said, “This investment in Keystone XL is a bold move to re-take control of our province’s economic destiny and put it firmly back in the hands of the owners of our natural resources, the people of Alberta.” He said Alberta will be able to sell its shares for a profit after the pipeline is built and it will generate a net return of over $30 billion through royalties and higher prices for Alberta oil in the next 20 years.
    There’s so much wrong with Kenney’s announcement, it’s impossible to comment on all the shortcomings in a single response. Therefore my comments are limited to a few glaring errors in judgment that should be obvious to every Alberta taxpayer.
    (1) Buying stock in a private company and then selling it back to the private sector is not taking ownership or control of anything. If not otherwise an illusion that is often called a shell game, Kenney’s deal is doing nothing more than playing the stock market with tax dollars.
    (2) Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have both committed (as did many other Democratic candidates) to cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline project years ago. Each has reinforced this commitment to cancel the project multiple times, and suddenly it is front page news in Alberta that Joe Biden has restated the obvious to any observer of U.S. politics.
    Why didn’t someone in the UCP caucus have the intelligence to ask Kenney to hold off signing any deal to invest in the Keystone XL pipeline until after the U.S. election? It’s a simple logical question. No rational investor would have committed this amount of money knowing that in five months there was a significant risk the entire project would be cancelled, or that in five months they would at least know for certain if the project had any possibility of going forward.
    (3) Why didn’t someone in the UCP caucus have the intelligence to ask or insist Kenney explain where his projections for a profit, and the projections for $30 billion in royalties came from? Are these projections based on the same budgeted oil price of $58-a-barrel? Because that budgeted price has not worked out well at all. Alberta barely collects any royalty now on bitumen, and if there is a profit to be made on a pipeline to Nebraska, why are there NO private investors? This latter question is analogous to a canary in a coal mine.
    If the pipeline is projected to be profitable, why does T.C. energy need a $1.5 billion Canadian dollar injection from Alberta’s taxpayers along with nearly $8 billion Canadian in guarantees? The truth is this project has been doomed to failure in the last couple of years for a number of reasons. Among many things, one only needs to follow the money trail to find evidence why this pipeline will likely never be built.
    Since 2014, investments into Alberta’s bitumen slowed to a trickle. By 2019 investments in Alberta’s bitumen stopped if one measures it against the number of companies cancelling projects or leaving Alberta. In comparison, in 2019, investments in renewable energy projects approached $300 billion U.S., and investments in the development of Electric Vehicles (EV) rose to $225 billion U.S. The facts are clear, in 2019 investors fled Alberta, while they invested more than half a trillion U.S. dollars in EV and renewable energy projects. Smart money is signalling there is money to be made in renewables and EVs, even at these low oil and gas prices. It stands to reason, even if oil and gas prices somehow enjoy a sustained rise, there will be more money to be made in renewables.
    Did not one MLA think to ask Kenney why we should believe every other investor in the world is wrong, and somehow Kenney’s investment prowess is correct? Did not one MLA think to ask Kenney where the money would come from to support this $10 billion deal given Alberta’s corporate tax rates have been slashed, and Alberta’s wage earners are not paying taxes, because they are not working? Up to this point the most ridiculous government spending I have witnessed was the 1990’s B.C. NDP government’s investment into constructing three fast ferries. It cost B.C. taxpayers nearly $450 million when all the shipbuilding experts said they would not work. They were right! The ships didn’t work, and all three were sold for scrap metal. Now comes Kenney and his merry band of sycophants. They are investing $10 billion in a pipeline (20 times the NDP’s ferry debacle) when all the experts are saying (with their money) this is not a worthwhile investment.
    As for the U.S. election, my bet is on Biden. Not because he is a better candidate or that Bernie’s supporters will NOT stay home this time like they did in 2016. I’m not betting on Biden because the liberal animosity towards Trump will motivate voters to stand on hot coals to vote Trump out of office. I’m not betting on Biden, because the Republican “Never Trump” voters are growing exponentially and they are even more motivated to vote Trump out of office than some democrats. I’m betting on Biden, because nothing motivates voters more than something to vote against! After all wasn’t voting against a party the motivating factor in the last two Alberta election victories? The sad part is I’m betting on Biden knowing it is a sure thing I’m betting it breaks Alberta’s taxpayers. What is most sad, I’m one of those taxpayers!
    Joe Anglin Former Independent MLA

    1. read it and weep indeed !

      Albertans have only themselves to blame (the Kenney/UCP voters in any case) for voting for a profoundly clueless, harper acolyte and outstanding example of the Dunning–Kruger effect . . . Jason Kenney

      he might be a whiz when it comes to internal sleazeball conservative politics but actual governing
      not so much

      wonder how long it’ll take for Alberta and Albertans to recover from the colossal clusterf*&^k that is the current Kenny/UCP regime

  10. “Create facts on the ground.” That is what the Israeli government and military are doing in the Palestinian territories, by building illegal settlements and bulldozing Palestinian orchards and villages.

    Was that the Keystone pipeline extension strategy? Is that the Coastal GasLink Pipeline strategy? Bulldoze straight through Indigenous territories, using military force to remove opposition?

    Another question: Is the same firm doing “risk analysis” for the UCP cabinet and AIMCo?

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